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NATO: Solana Refuses To Set Date For Second Round Of Members

Brussels, 2 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - NATO Secretary General Javier Solana today refused to set a date for the admission of a second wave of new members into the alliance.

Washington has said it wants three countries -- Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic -- to be invited to join athe alliance at a NATO summit next week in Madrid. Other alliance members however also favour the inclusion in the first round of Romania and Slovenia.

Solana told the Belgian daily "Le Soir" that Romania "is a valid candidate which deserves entry into NATO" but did not say when. Solana said he did not know what the final summit decision on Romania will be. But he said it was not a question of "yes" or "no" but "a question of knowing whether it will be tomorrow or the day after".

Romania's President Emil Constantinescu is due in Bonn today for talks with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Meanwhile in Kyiv Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and visiting Czech President Vaclav Havel called NATO's eastward expansion a "natural process."

The two signed a statement in which they also called on NATO to remain "open to all interested countries which are ready for membership." At a joint news conference, Havel also said that former Soviet republics are "fully within their rights to apply for membership and be accepted" into NATO. He specifically mentioned the Baltic countries. Russia has said it is particularly opposed to NATO membership for former Soviet republics.

Hungary said today that it will continue to support the inclusion of all Central and Eastern European applicants in NATO.

Matyas Eorsi, secretary of state at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Bratislava that Budapest supports all applicants' memberships in Western structures because "it would bring stability and prosperity to the region."

He said it is in Budapest's vital interest to support applicant states' integration, regardless of their regimes and governments. He also said it was painful to see Slovakia's prospects to join NATO worsening because of Western reservations about Bratislava's democratic record.

NATO is due to announce the first wave of candidates to join an expanded alliance at its summit in Madrid on July 8 and 9. The US has said it wants just Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in the first wave. Some other NATO countries also favor first-wave inclusion of Romania and Slovenia.